Thursday, January 3, 2013

Squash holds Louis XVI's blood

From the genetic genealogy front, and, comes this fascinating if slightly bizarre story about extracting the DNA of Louis XVI (he of guillotine fame) from a gourd.
More than 200 years ago, France's King Louis XVI was killed (along with his wife, Marie Antoinette) via guillotine, and legend has it someone used a handkerchief to soak up the king's blood, then stored the handkerchief in a gourd.

Now scientists have confirmed that a squash emblazoned with figures from the French Revolution indeed contains the dried blood of the executed king.

Scientists matched DNA from the blood with DNA from a detached and mummified head believed to be from a direct ancestor of King Louis XVI, the 16th-century French king Henry IV. The new analysis, which was published Dec. 30 in the journal Forensic Science International, confirmed the identity of both French royals.

"We have these two kings scattered in pieces in different places in Europe," said study co-author Carles Lalueza-Fox, a paleogenomics researcher at Pompeu Fabra University in Spain. The new analysis confirms that the two men "are separated by seven generations and they are paternally related."
Some years back, a gentleman who had learned that I was involved in DNA testing for genealogical purposes wrote to ask if he could send me a 19th-century letter, a stamp still affixed to the envelope, with the goal of extracting DNA from dried saliva. I had to reply that even were this possible, I was certain that it would require a specialized test from a specialized lab at enormous cost. I commented at the time that this was something you'd see on a television fantasy program.

Today, who knows? I'll bet the cost would still be astronomical.
Read the story (link opens in a new window)


Jani said...

This is really cool, Chris. I'm waiting for the results from the Richard III DNA testing in the UK to be published soon.

Christopher Brooks said...

Two of us. And wondering what conclusions analysts will draw, and how correctly, given the longstanding argument about the two historical views of Richard. As a boy I toured the Tower of London, and of course the guide pointed out the staircase under which the skeletons were unearthed.

Donnalynn said...

Fascinating find, Chris! And can't wait for the Richard III results!